COMMENTARY | If the bad news of boxing is getting you down and you need something to reaffirm your belief that prizefighting can still be a noble, highly-specialized craft, just tune into HBO this Saturday night.
One of boxing's hottest young properties, Mikey Garcia (32-0, 27 KOs), will be challenging for his second world title in as many weight classes when he comes up against defending WBO super featherweight champ, Roman "Rocky" Martinez (27-1-2, 16 KOs). The bout will be part of a televised triple-header, also featuring Nonito Donaire vs. Vic Darchinyan and Demetrius Andrade vs. Vanes Martirosyan.
So, what's so special about the 25-year-old Garcia from Oxnard, California?
Simply put: he represents all that's right in boxing.
Born into a boxing family, Mikey traveled the gyms and arenas of Southern California as little brother of former world champ and top trainer du jour, Robert Garcia and son of respected old school trainer, Eduardo Garcia. While playing the role of kid apprentice, he soaked up several career's worth of firsthand knowledge and the type of seasoning that can't really be taught in the gym.
This lifetime's worth of education has produced one of the sport's best all-around fighters and a real treat for hardcore fight fans yearning for boxers with elevated aptitude to go along with elevated levels of testosterone.
Upon turning pro, it soon became apparent that Miguel Angel "Mikey" was not just your typical talented young prospect. Well-balanced and mature with a definite killer instinct, Garcia was 20-0 before moving up to that next level of opposition that would confirm his "for real" status.
The elevated level of opposition brought out the best in the young fighter, who tore through tough veterans like Tomas Vila, Pedro Navarrete, and Cornelius Lock en route to a world ranking.
Media began to pay attention to Robert Garcia's kid brother, writing up his ring exploits and creating a buzz while Garcia's run of KO/TKO victories won him a solid fan base wherever he fought.
After one-sided TKO wins over Bernabe Concepcion and Jonathon Victor Barros, a technical decision victory over the tough-as-nails Orlando Salido earned Garcia the WBO featherweight title. However, his first world title would never be defended. Unable to make the 126 lb. limit, he would forfeit his belt prior to his four-round destruction of former champ, Juan Manuel Lopez last June.
The weight issue would be the one and only chink in otherwise impenetrable armor. Given the benefit of the doubt by fans and media, Garcia's troubles on the scale were quickly written off as the byproduct of a kid still growing into his frame.
Stylistically, unlike a lot of offensive powerhouses, Garcia has shown himself to have a firm grasp on the finer points of boxing defense.
Being a solid, well-schooled defensive fighter doesn't mean jumping on a skateboard and staying more than an arm's length from an opponent at all times. Rather, it means that a fighter can stay in the pocket longer, slip punches, and counter effectively.
Garcia is a testament to what can be accomplished when an offense-minded fighter takes the time to learn the fundamentals of the sport.
Tall and lanky, Garcia uses his height to his advantage, adeptly changing speeds and slipping punches when coming forward to unleash educated multi-punch combinations. With an injured opponent in front of him, the kid's stone cold, emotionless ring work morphs into angry efficiency, revealing one of the best finishers in the sport. Like a spider pouncing on web-entangled prey, Garcia is swift, decisive, and deadly.
Garcia's opponent this Saturday is tough, Puerto Rican two-time titlist and defending champ, "Rocky" Martinez. If everything plays out true to form, Martinez will put up a hellacious fight, but Garcia will calmly and coolly remove Martinez from the bout en route to his second world title.
From that point forward, it's stardom or bust for the young boxing talent. Big fights await at super featherweight and lightweight with names like Yuriorkis Gamboa and Ricky Burns being tossed around.
Believe it or not, at 25 years of age, Mikey Garcia is still growing and developing as a fighter, still a year or two away from his physical and mental prime. That's a frightening thought for the top fighters in his weight range, but an exciting one for true fans of the sport.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and is the author of Notes from the Boxing Underground. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.
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